Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is the most interesting prospect projected to be taken in the late first round of the NBA Draft. Hollis-Jefferson jives with the Grizzlies future looking philosophy because he is such a project that has potential to be what the Grizzlies need.
At the end of the round most teams are looking for the next Draymond Green. A flawed player that has the tools, but needs help putting them together so he can be successful. Hollis-Jefferson is the closest thing to Green in this draft. Like Green he's a tough nosed defense first player tweener that is projected to be just a role player out of college. The two are totally different players, but Hollis-Jefferson could follow a similar development path in the NBA.
Hollis-Jefferson's limited offensive game led to him averaging only 11.2 points per game. Most of his points came due to his stunning athleticism and incredible energy in the half-court and especially transition. A maximum vertical of 38 inches means Hollis-Jefferson can jump out of the gym. Combine that with the 6'7", 211 lb sophomore's 7'2" wingspan and 8'8" standing reach and you have a physical freak. Add his never stopping motor and infectious energy and you have a tornado of limbs that wreaks havoc all over the court.
Here's RHJ showing off his athleticism:
Here he dunks from an almost standstill on a 7'6" center. He made a great cut off the ball so he'd be open enough to receive the pass. Then he uses his long arms and jumping ability to finish the play. Not many people in college basketball could make this play, if any at all. It's an incredible athletic feat. He can do things like this regularly, but where he shows off his athleticism the most is in transition.
Here's how he beats you in transition:
Hollis-Jefferson runs the floor very well because of his speed and he knows how to fill lanes correctly. At about the three point line he recognizes that there was going to be an open lob attempt so he sped up. Then it's just pure athleticism from there. He is able to go coast to coast and score or run alongside a guard who could find Hollis-Jefferson for an easy bucket. Right off the bat he'd be the most electrifying athlete the Grizzlies have.
Beating defenders with your first step is important and Hollis-Jefferson has an incredibly quick first step, but once he's forced to put the ball on the floor all bets are off. He can't really create for himself or others off the dribble or standing still. His inability to keep a consistent dribble compl When given a lane to the basket or he has his handle under control Hollis-Jefferson can finish or draw fouls at a high rate (5.4 free throws per game).
Here's what a successful drive to the basket looks like:
Here his man is guarding him too closely and he is able to use his quick first step to get by his defender and into the lane. When he has an open lane like this he can finish at the rim because his arms are so long and he has nice touch around the rim. Unfortunately, his inability to hit jumpers makes open lanes to the basket hard to come by.
Defenders became accustomed to sagging way off of Hollis-Jefferson when he had the ball on the perimeter. Limiting his attacking and making life on offense even more difficult for him. There's not one facet of his jump shot that works. From his hands to his elbows to even his feet. None of it works.Reconstructing his jump shot is a must and the most important part of his development going forward. His bad and inconsistent mechanics have become habits. Breaking the bad habits isn't going to happen over night. It's going to take time (maybe even seasons) and practice, but I think Hollis-Jefferson could do it.
What Hollis-Jefferson lacks in on offense he makes up for on defense. He is the best perimeter defender in the draft and it's not really close. His ability to lock down the opposing team's best player was huge for Arizona in his two years there. He can guard just about anyone out on the floor and will be a game changer defensively in the NBA.
Off the ball Hollis-Jefferson wreaks havoc with his length and athleticism. He can play the passing lanes because of his length and speed. Then he can turn around and meet you at the rim because of his jumping ability. He is the complete package on defense.
Guards struggle against Hollis-Jefferson because he has the lateral quickness to stay in front of them. His length makes it hard for driving guards to get off quality shots over his outstretched arms. It's nearly impossible to get an open jump shot over him because he is one of the best at closing out in college basketball. He gives no space, but when he does he can make it disappear quickly.
What makes Hollis-Jefferson special on defense is that he can guard bigs better than some big men.
Here he is guarding one of the best big men in the country in Frank Kaminsky. Kaminsky struggles to get comfortable in the post because Hollis-Jefferson is on him like white on rice the moment he gets post position. His length forces Kaminsky to the middle of the post where he tries to clear some space, but Hollis-Jefferson is too strong and has too good of defensive footwork to be pushed off his spot or faked out. So Kaminsky is forced into a bad shot off of one foot. This is a big part of his defensive repertoire and a huge reason I think the Grizzlies should draft him to play some power forward.
At 6'7" Hollis Jefferson is the prototypical height for a wing in the NBA, but if the Grizzlies draft him I think some of his time would be better served if he played at the four next to Marc Gasol. He has the ability to mesh on defense because he is so good against bigger offensive players. Then on offense Coach Dave Joerger could break out the old baseline alley-oop package we haven't seen in so long or use him as a roll man.
Of course he is going to need some developing, but most draft picks aren't meant for now. Hollis-Jefferson is a guy who would be seeing a lot of time in Iowa developing his offensive game. Jordan Adams and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson would be a devastating two-way combination if both developed like the Grizzlies want them to.
The Grizzlies picking Rondae Hollis-Jefferson wouldn't surprise me and according to GBB's Chip Williams may be where they are leaning at this time. It seems like a homerun pick, but now the Grizzlies have to worry about him being there at pick number 25.